Technology

How to sell digital downloads

By Denn Mokaya, Published on January 06, 2022

Feature image

How to sell digital downloads on shopify

A digital download is an electronic way of getting a file, document or software. They are acquired over a network such us the internet or in storage media like usbs and hard drivers. Selling Digital goods is becoming a more popular way for companies, businesses and individuals to earn an income.

Software files and games are the age old digital downloads from which companies have profited from. But music and videos have caught on and more recently files and documents have joined the party.

Now anyone can earn money from selling digital downloads.

You could have knowledge you'd like to sell in PDFs or in video tiurorials. Or you are an artist and you'd like to sell your illustrations as Jpegs or SVGs or any form of digital image. Or you have music or audio of any kind. Or you'd like to distribute software packages, the list is endless but the formula is the same.

You do not need any technical expertise for this; you just need a store on shopify and your digital content.

In this short post, you'll learn how to sell digital downloads from your shopify store and earn an income for an extended period of time.

TL:DR

  1. Install courses and memberships app on your shop. link
  2. Design, create & publish your first content. Here's how to.

a. Instead of text on the canvas, use the download button and upload your files. 3. Create a corresponding product on your shop 4. Link the product to the digital content. To sell it as a one time purchase (See this tutorial ) or 5. Create a subscription plan and link to the product. Here's how to.

What is Shopify?

If you are unfamiliar with Shopify, it is an online software service that enables entrepreneurs to set up online shops and sell their products without any technical experience. Visit shopify.com and create an account.

For this short tutorial, the products you are selling are digital downloads, let's get started!

Enable your store to handle digital downloads

Shopify was built for physical products. But we want to deal with digital goods. To enable your store to leverage Shopify's powerful features like the order management, store front, cart, checkout etc to handle digital downloads we need something extra.

That's where the shopify app store comes in. There are many applications that enable merchants to accomplish what would otherwise have been impossible; like sell digital downloads!

There are a couple apps that are suitable for our current task, each with different features and capabilities. For example we will feature courses & memberships app because of simplicity and it's varied capabilities on the area of digital goods.

Visit the courses & memberships app page and click add app to install it on your store. Follow the instructions to activate the app and get it set up in your store. Now that you have the right tools, let's demonstrate how it works.

Create your first content

Content is Just a container for your digital goods, it could be used for anything; from downloads to courses. We will create a gaming series, digital download shop called Home Pong to demonstrate how it's done.

Click on content on the side menu and + content to create your first course. For more details on how to create the content have a look at these instructions. On the outline page you have a view of how this will be presented to your users. More on that later.

To upload your digital files,

  1. Create a page by clicking +Page button,
  2. Select the blank layout and you will have a blank canvas.
  3. Click +Block at the bottom and select file. This will hold your digital download.
  4. Once its loaded on the canvas, click on it and on the right you'll a context menu
  5. Click the select file button and upload your file
  6. Click save.

You can add some text or images to inform your gamer what to expect or what they are in for!

canvas

After you are done populating your page and uploading your file go back to the outline and do the same if you have more related content to upload.

Publish content

Once done you can preview how the result looks by clicking on the generate preview link button and once satisfied click Publish to make it publically available.

Here's a preview of the home page

Preview of home page

And a preview of the game download page

Preview of the download page

Notice the text and the download button? Just as we designed it to be. And an even more wonderful thing is that only the fans that purchase it can access this page.

But we are not done yet. There's still no way for anyone to purchase this content. So let's head back to the app dashboard and fix that.

Sell the digital download

First create a co-responding shopify product. Give it all the necessary details including the name and the price. Make sure to uncheck the "Track quantity" & the "This is a physical product" box. This makes sure that your digital content is not sold out :-)

Here's my product:

Shopify product

On the outline page click on the How to sell button:

How to sell button

To sell this digital download we need to decide how we want to sell it. There are two ways to monetize this:

Set up purchase

1. Sell it as a once time purchase

Which is just that, the user pays once and has access to the digital download for a period of time. You can set the expiration date for access from within the app as well.

To do this, click Set up one time purchase & select existing product then pick the one you created. This links this content with the product so that whoever purchases the product will have access to the digital download. How? We'll see that later.

2. Sell it as a subscription

Perhaps you have more than one digital product you'd like to offer to your audience, you fans. But you cannot do that all at once for many reasons. One of them being the other is still in making. To your loyal fans you can offer a subscription plan that will give them more value at a lower price; in exchange for a commitment to pay regularly. How? you ask. Here's an example for my Home pong game series.

  1. They get the latest releases of your game
  2. may even be beta testers
  3. Interact with you during the build process by getting digital files of the process, things that one time purchasers will never enjoy
  4. Offer cheat codes to advance quickly
  5. Offer tips on how to enjoy the game better etc

It's up-to you to deliver the value. Now to sell digital downloads as a subscription, take the following steps.

A). Activate subscriptions on your shop

Set up Subscription

This makes your shop able to receive recurring payments for your products.

B). Create a selling plan

What is a selling plan? This is how shopify handles subscriptions. It contains all the required settings and customizations for your subscription. Settings like name, discount, minimum/maximum cycles etc.

To create a selling plan, first You need to activate subscriptions on your shop as shown above.

With subscriptions activated on your shopify store, now we can create a selling plan. Click Selling plans > +Selling plan and follow the wizard to create your ideal selling plan.

Create selling plan

C.) Link digital download (content) to selling plan

The subscription feature on this app is implemented in such a way that you can have multiple products linked to it. This means that it can be reused many times. It also has the ability to link multiple content. This means that you can add more digital content to this subscription in the future. Allowing you to give more value to your subscribers.

So, now what digital content should this selling plan give access to? On the selling plan page you just created, on the content tab click + content.

Create selling plan

And on the products page click Link product

Add product to plan

Wow! You now have a working selling plan! I Should add that you can add more options to your selling plan group by clicking on the selling plans tab and adding another.

Add another sellingplan

Storefront appearance

Now you are ready to sell your digital download to your customers! Time to unveil your new digital download product, are you excited?

Beautiful product page

Isn't that a wonderful sight to see? And a very profitable digital product to sell too! You can see I have two selling plans in the Home Pong selling plan group. Each has a different discount based on how often I will update the content inside.

selling Plan description

On selecting a subscription option, the description given will appear at the bottom. Give your potential fans a glimpse of what each option has in store for them to buy what they want most!

Cart and checkout appearance

What does it look like when the user has added this digital download on the cart and is checking out? It's always a good idea to know what your customers will experience. Let's dive into the cart and checkout!

Subscription Product in cart

The cart has an indicator of the name of the selling plan option selected, in this case 'Month'. And the subtotal.

And on the checkout page, it is clearly indicated as a recurring total. Great, we now have a subscription product.

checkout page with recurring total

How customers will access their digital content

On purchasing the product, your customers will be presented with an email requesting them to create an account with shopify. This account is what they'll use to access their dashboard and download their latest digital content.

1. Add 'My digital games' Menu item

This menu will help customers to quickly login and access new content from you. Clicking on it will present them with a login page from which they can access their dashboard.

On Shopify's side menu, click Online Store > Navigation

Add menu item to home page

On the menus page Add a menu item, give it a name and enter this in the link box /a/courses and save the changes as shown below.

Add menu item to home page

Now you have a direct link for your users to click to access their content. It'll appear on the menu, like this.

menu item on home page

On logging in they'll access the content purchased.

Add menu item to home page

Conclusion

Shopify gives you the platform to create and run an online shop and courses & memberships gives you the ability to sell digital products. So yes It is possible and profitable to sell digital downloads online. Remember, by adding more value, you can sell on a subscription basis, profiting even more while your fans/customers benefit as well. We call that a win win.

Denn Mokaya

Software engineer at InflowKit. A family man that Loves and lives life. Loves nature and the out doors. Loves writing and DIY stuff.

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